Scott Lewis had an interesting article in the Voice of San Diego last week on the tense relationship between Nathan Fletcher and the U-T San Diego editorial board. What was not particularly shocking was the clear evidence of the fact that the U-T sees itself as an extension of the local GOP and was disturbed that Fletcher may have harmed the Republican brand. More illustrative, however, was Fletcher’s defense of his move (note the part in bold):
Well I think you’ve got to go and look at what I actually said. And what I said is that I’m rejecting the partisan environment of today. People say “well did you ever consider becoming a Democrat.” I didn’t. Because I think there’s unwillingness on that side as well to step out and solve problems, whether we’re talking about pensions or managed competition or some of these other types of issues.
And the other thing is that there’s not one position of mine that’s changed. There’s not one issue that’s changed. There’s not one principle that’s changed. The only thing that’s changed is the party label. And folks that have a tremendous amount of consternation in the move, it’s more of an adherence to that label than to what I represent and what I’ve been. I’m the exact same person today as I was yesterday as I was the day before. Many folks have struggled with this point and say things like “But he’s still a Republican! His wife worked for George W. Bush!”
There it is straight from the horse’s mouth. Fletcher’s move to “independence” is just a label switch with absolutely no substance whatsoever. Any Democrat or moderate independent who is searching for something new, fresh, and authentic from Fletcher needs to listen to the man himself: “the only thing that’s changed is the party label.”
Thus there is no need to ask him any probing questions about his ideological evolution or the transformation of his policies. There has been none. He is the same Grover Norquist loving conservative that he was when he called himself a Republican. As Lewis astutely notes:
“Liberals who are suspicious that Fletcher has not actually become more progressive in the last two months should be. He insists time and time again, in this extraordinary discussion with the U-T, that he has not changed his positions.”
Thus Fletcher’s move to “independence” is simply a change of garments, a stylistic head fake that he is hoping Democrats and moderates in San Diego will be naïve enough to take seriously.
What should be more inspiring to progressives in San Diego is U-T editor Jeff Light’s analysis of the mayor’s race put forth as a preface to a question about Fletcher damaging the Republican brand:
“We as an editorial board do not want to see Bob Filner get through to the general election, because the environment around the general election is much more favorable to Bob Filner. So we certainly want to keep that from happening.”
Anything that makes the editorial board of the Union-Tribune nervous makes me happy. Despite all of the useless hand-wringing and second-guessing in Democratic and progressive circles about Filner, the U-T has it right. Bob Filner would be the most progressive mayor in the history of San Diego, the old guard’s worst nightmare. And he can win the general during a year when the presidential election will bring out more voters likely to favor a Democrat.
This possibility should excite the Democratic base but instead, many liberal pundits and Democratic politicos are too busy letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, fretting about style or personality conflicts rather than keeping their eyes on the prize.
Anyone from the center-left who doesn’t see how electing a progressive Democrat as the mayor of San Diego for the first time ever would be better than settling for Nathan Fletcher because he changed his label and is not Carl DeMaio needs to have their head examined.
But maybe that’s what happens when you are so used to losing that you can’t even imagine the alternative. You want to redefine what you think of as a more palatable loss as winning by embracing the lesser evil rather than trying to change the game. But doesn’t that get old after awhile, San Diego?
And to those who think that they are just too cool to have any interest in defeating the Right locally in this historical moment where so much is at stake: you are not cool at all, you’re clueless. You’ve been duped into precisely the kind of passivity that helps perpetuate the status quo in this city.
So don’t be a dupe—vote for Bob Filner, if only to make the folks at the Union-Tribune editorial board deeply unhappy.